Dear Members of the Yale Community,
I write to provide an update on the recent graduate student unionization effort and my hopes for our university community in the weeks and months to come. We all benefit from a campus environment in which we are encouraged to express our opinions through open dialogue. Tolerance and mutual respect are bedrock values of our university. These principles are essential to our well-being as individuals, as an institution, and as a community.
Earlier this week, a group of students, through their labor organization called UNITE HERE Local 33, submitted a petition for a representation election to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office in Hartford. The petition serves as a formal request for a union election that will be conducted and overseen by the NLRB Regional Director to ensure a fair, inclusive, and democratic election.
Yale will honor this request for a secret ballot election.
If you are a graduate or professional school student who may be eligible to vote in the election because of your teaching or research role, I encourage you to educate yourself by engaging with peers, faculty, and leaders of your school as you make decisions about union representation. Please carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of unionizing and vote your conscience. Remember that the outcome of the election will be binding on you, whether or not you choose to vote.
I also want to respond to the request by some community members that the university “commit to neutrality” during this process. In the context of a labor discussion, “neutrality” could be understood to mean that faculty members who supervise graduate students should not be permitted to express their views on unionization. As an institution dedicated to tolerance and open dialogue, it would be inappropriate for Yale to make such a commitment. We remain committed to the core principle of free expression. Everyone should have the opportunity to voice their opinion.
As a faculty member, I have taught, mentored, and learned from many Yale students. I have found that a defining strength of our university is that we foster an inclusive campus environment, where all students feel valued as integral members of the community. As our campus discusses the important issue of graduate student unionization, I ask that we do so in a civil and respectful manner that promotes a sense of community through discourse and tolerance.
I am grateful for our collective capacity to engage in important conversations about the future of our university with respect and care.
Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry